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Adm. Swift: Pacific Fleet Should Both Train and Operate Forces

Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, delivers remarks during a change of command and retirement ceremony as Vice Adm. Nora W. Tyson prepares to relinquish command of U.S. 3rd Fleet. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet pushed back against recent discussions that he shouldn’t both prepare and operate ready forces and that force-generation should be concentrated at U.S. Fleet Forces Command on the East Coast.

Adm. Scott Swift also denied the Pacific Fleet was training its forces to a different standard than East Coast ships and warned that concentrating force-generation responsibilities on one coast would be counterproductive in today’s competitive maritime environment.

In the aftermath of two fatal surface navy collisions and two other major mishaps in the Pacific last year, a Comprehensive Review and a Strategic Readiness Review looked at various contributing factors, including command and control structures within the fleet. Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee have taken a particular interest in the topic, with several members suggesting they’d like to create a system where U.S. 2nd Fleet is reestablished to serve as a force-generator on the East Coast that parallels U.S. 3rd Fleet on the West Coast, and U.S. Fleet Forces Command takes over as the lead developer of policy and standards for the Navy’s man, train and equip functions.

Swift told USNI News today that the two reviews recommended two different command and control models – the CR suggested a Naval Surface Group Western Pacific be inserted into the current organization to oversee training and certification of deploying forward-deployed forces in the Pacific, whereas the SRR recommended making Fleet Forces the “single-source provider” of readiness generation – and warned that “we need to be careful” about concentrating the authority to train, certify and deploy ready forces under a single command.

“I’ll use Amazon as an example – why is Amazon going down the path of multiple headquarters? If centralization is the key to business excellence, why is Amazon going in a different direction?” he told USNI News after giving a speech at the WEST 2018 conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.
“This idea of centralization is what our peer competitors expect us to do; they saw us do it in Iraq, they saw us do it in Afghanistan, that’s their expectation. So if we’re going to take an asymmetric approach to warfare, why would we take a symmetrical approach to what we’re doing in command and control?”

As for the concern that having two readiness providers creates two readiness standards, Swift said bluntly: “we do not have multiple standards. We train the fleet to the same standard.”

“The last five carrier strike groups that deployed, we built that readiness. PACFLEET did, they all deployed off the West Coast. And they’re performing magnificently in Syria, Iraq, all those other places. So there’s not a double standard,” the admiral said.
“Our ability to achieve that standard in [Forward Deployed Naval Forces- Japan] is challenged, we can’t meet the same standard that our West Coast deployed units meet or what our East Coast deployed units meet. … We don’t have the ranges in Japan that we do on the West Coast. There’s also a difference between the West Coast ranges and the East Coast ranges, so I’m not about to criticize the model that [Fleet Forces Command] has because their environment is different.”

More broadly, Swift said he was pleased with how PACFLEET has handled its responsibilities: by overseeing readiness being both produced and consumed by both U.S. 3rd Fleet and U.S. 7th Fleet, he said he has been able to find efficiencies, such as the 3rd Fleet Forward deployment model.

“When I traveled around the theater after I took over as Pacific Fleet, when I would talk to people about the power of the Pacific Fleet, what was reflected back to me was the power of 7th Fleet. 3rd Fleet was force generation and all that other stuff,” Swift said of the common assumption about the roles of 7th Fleet and 3rd Fleet. But today, under the 3rd Fleet Forward model, where strike groups deploy from San Diego and remain under 3rd Fleet command and control the whole deployment, instead of moving to 7th Fleet command and control after crossing the international dateline, the “Vinson [Carrier Strike Group] is out prowling around in the Pacific right now, the leading edge of U.S. national interests, being commander by Adm. Alexander here in the 3rd Fleet headquarters.”

With so many potential conflicts lurking in his area of operations, “in my world, how am I going to fight a major warfight with the resources that I have right now?” Swift said is his primary focus.
“That’s my responsibility. That’s where the focus is, and that’s why we’re doing 3rd Fleet Forward, so we have more availability of ships to act as a deterrent to be where it matters when it matters with what matters.”

During his lunchtime speech, Swift told the crowd at WEST that being a producer and consumer of readiness has given him a unique perspective on matters of funding both sides of the equation. Mentioning the carrier strike group’s force generation model, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, and its creator, former Fleet Forces commander Adm. Bill Gortney, Swift said “when Adm. Gortney talked about OFRP, he said the relevancy of OFRP is going to be based on whether it’s funded or not. So it’s a great process, it’s a great readiness tool, but we have to resource it. And then we have to resource operations based on the amount of readiness we’re able to generate. So we may have to do less – the Navy is a can-do organization, we’re getting underway, we’ve got a mission. Well, wait a minute, we need to take a look at our readiness to get underway.”

  • Guest

    Isn’t ADM Swift a lame duck just waiting to be relieved? Why do let these guys that are heading out the door speak at these conferences? They were part of the problem that broke our navy in the pacific.

    • Marcd30319

      Because they are in command now and have the responsibility now.

  • D. Jones

    Spreading headquarters geographically makes defensive sense. Think of when snow or ice hits DC: everything stops. Having functional HQ elsewhere permits continuity of operations. In fact, a distributed command architecture could baffle an enemy. How could a China or Russia defeat dozens of LCHQ’s (Littoral Combat Headquarters)? They could be anywhere. Congress needs to fund an HQ module and make many of them.

  • kye154

    “…Train and Operate Forces”. Isn’t that apart of the Navy’s mission in the first place? Something seriously amiss in navy’s policy here, for an admiral to say that. But, as many problems as the navy has these days, is there any hope of ever getting back on an even keel again? Not so sure they can..

    • Masau80

      That is the Echelon 2 Title 10 responsibility. They then delegate that to the TYCOMs and CNET, and the numbered fleets to do the hands on work.

  • Marc Apter

    The Admiral said the Pacific Fleet is not training to a different standard then the East Coast. Back during Vietnam, every ship heading to a Westpac Deployment had stop in San Diego or Hawaii for additional training in almost every warfare area before they could continue. Just saying…..

    • Masau80

      Every Strike Group, Amphibious Ready Group, and Independent Deployer spends about eight weeks in SOCAL under the training administration of CSG-15 and C3F. Hawaii is used for a final refresher on the way west. Training on the East Coast is similar – (under CSG-4), except that because of geographic issues, it is much more truncated as the training is conducted from VACAPES all the way around to the Gulf of Mexico. All of the Airwings from both coasts go through Fallon.

      • Curtis Conway

        Driving a ship is like flying an aircraft. The basics are the basics. The night of the two accidents in question where we lost so much human life, one wonders if Anyone Was Driving The Ship! SWO School should be in ONE PLACE.

        • Masau80

          Of course, SWOS is in Newport – it is not a prerequisite for JOs on their way to their first ship. Basic ship-handling is a TYCOM responsibility, not CSG-15 or a numbered fleet (3rd, 7th). Although, for the FDNF, C7F has a bit more oversight – hence the Commander was relieved. VADM Rowden was retired early. It will be interesting to see what steps the new CNSF will take to address the exposed deficiencies.

          • CHENG1087

            “Basic ship-handling” is not the responsibility of TYCOM, or CSG-15, or any other alpha-numeric entity. It is solely the responsibility of the individual ship’s Commanding Officer. It is ONLY the CO who can certify that an officer is qualified to stand an underway watch on his ship. It is the CO who must satisfy himself that his OODs are competent shiphandlers. If an officer is not performing to his satisfaction, it is the COs responsibility to train or re-train him. All the available off-ship classroom and simulator training is certainly valuable “school house” preparation, but the officer must prove to his Captain that he is fully trained and competent to stand watch on his ship. The CO is solely responsible to oversee the training of his ship handlers, and should withhold his signature until those officers demonstrate competency. The Commanding Officer is responsible — no one else.

          • Masau80

            Yet we just saw two COs canned. That is their task from the TYCOM. KIND of like you blaming an AVIATION CO For a ramp strike. The TYCOM is responsible for all pipeline training. COs just fine tune that training to fit their ship/wardroom.

          • CHENG1087

            Wrong. Are you trying to equate the training and certification of a Naval Aviator (airmanship) with the training and certification of an underway Officer of the Deck (shiphandling)? Not even close — apples and oranges. What is your definition of “fine tune”? Before you can “fine tune” anything, it must first be “rough tuned.” Each Naval Aviator receives literally hundreds of hours of hands-on training in actual aircraft, one-on-one with professional instructors, punctuated by frequent “go/no-go” checkrides. Ground school and simulator hours are important parts of his training, but he learns his deadly craft in the air, in the cockpit, not on the ground. In the same way, a budding Surface Warfare shiphandler learns his craft only in his “cockpit” — the bridge of his own ship, underway, under the intense scrutiny of his Commanding Officer. The surface CO has the benefit of personally observing the performance of his shiphandlers — his “Captain’s Chair” is literally an arm’s length away from his watchstanders. His officers arrive on his ship with a rudimentary understanding of seamanship and shiphandling, gained through classroom and simulator exposure during the brief “pipeline training.” A surface officer learns the art of shiphandling in only one way — on the bridge of his ship under the critical oversight of his CO. The Captain cannot shirk that sobering responsibility. It is his alone.

          • Masau80

            You are arguing with yourself. Your argument for the CO’s being responsible is a reflection of what surface warriors experience now. They walk aboard their first ship a month after graduation/commissioning. That methodology isn’t working. Send them to SWOS for six months and then send them to sea.

          • CHENG1087

            For nearly two centuries, from 1775 to the establishment of the original SWOS Division Officer Course in the early-1970s, young Naval Officers (called Surface Line Officers, back then) reported aboard their first ships directly from their commissioning source. Somehow, during those two centuries, we managed to produce sufficient competent shiphandlers to win a war or two or three, and all that shiphandling training was done on-the-job, on the bridges of thousands of surface ships under the tutelage of thousands of Commanding Officers, all too often under fire. The only way for a “ship driver” to become truly competent was — and still is, in my opinion — to drive real live ships. Would you argue that a Naval Aviator could become a competent airman without ever flying a real live aircraft? Do you really believe that reconstituting the shore-bound, classroom-oriented BASIC SWOSDOC is the answer? How many hours of hands-on shiphandling training, on the bridge of an actual ship, will those new BASIC SWOSDOC students have received by the time they report aboard their first ship? Answer: ZERO. As we “armchair Commodores” continue this debate, there are 280 Commanding Officers, of 280 U. S. Navy ships, dealing with the real-world problems of training their shiphandlers. They are dealing today with “what is,” not what they might wish it to be. BASIC SWOSDOC is not the answer.

  • vincedc

    He managed to ignore the issues that started this controversies in the first place. Not sure exactly what the answer should be….but the admiral’s status quo is certainly not it.

  • Curtis Conway

    Officers and Junior Officers of the Deck . . . see to the safety of All Hands (Period). Basic shipboard safety and seamanship rules for an OOD/JOOD do not change regardless of operations. To convolute operational requirements with basic seamanship responsibilities and training is a mistake, and should not be permitted to cloud this issue.

  • jerry

    It is always about control.